In the third-year of California’s drought, state officials have anxiously watched 28 small communities revolve in and out of waterlessness. These towns have been listed as “critical water systems” since January.
Some of the communities have managed to improve their infrastructure or policies enough to remove themselves from the list. But according to the Los Angeles Times, 14 remain in danger of losing their water in the next 60 days.
One such town is Parkwood, whose last well dried up in July. The town is now relying on the city of Madera for its water, though it has been prohibited from expending it on trees, shrubs and lawns. Running a sprinkler in Parkwood can now incur a $75 fine.
Bruce Burton, an assistant deputy director for the California Water Resources Control Board, says the fact that the Board now has to track areas that are losing water is “a sign of how severe this drought is.”
State officials are now working with communities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund projects that will improve water supplies – digging new wells, digging deeper wells and bringing in outside water. Emergency drought funds are also being used to keep towns from drying up completely.
“We didn’t want water systems to come to us and say, ‘Oh, we ran out of water today,’” said Burton.
Since August of this year, California has officially entered its most severe drought since the U.S. Drought Monitor began keeping records. Over half the state is experiencing the highest drought category on the agency’s 5-tiered scale. The negative impact on California’s agriculture is expected to cost the state $2.2 billion in revenue, according to UC Davis.